Coco industry bill approval expected before SONA

MATI CITY, Davao Oriental – Senator Cynthia A. Villar announced here Sunday that the proposed law that will provide interventions to the coconut industry will mostly benefit coconut farmers in the province, the area in the country considered among the highest producers of the crop.

Expecting that the proposal could be passed into law before President Rodrigo R. Duterte makes his state of the nation address (SONA) this month, Villar, author of the law in the Senate and the legislative body’s chair for agriculture and food security, also urged local farmers to intercrop.

“(The proposed law) has two fund sources,” said Villar at the sidelines of the celebration of the 51st founding anniversary of the province, point out that one of the fund sources is the coconut levy fund, while the other is a P10 billion a year fund from the national government that will be used by the coconut industry.

The coconut levy fund, collected during the time of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos and which has ballooned to about P75 billion, will be invested in government treasury bills with the profits to be used by the industry.

“The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is mandated to prepare a registry of all the coconut farmers in the Philippines within six months after the passage of the law and that the coconut registry will serve as the list of those who will benefit from the fund,” she explained.

Davao Oriental, the southernmost province of the Davao Region which was carved out of the old Davao in 1967, is considered the top producer of coconuts in the country at one billion nuts a year from about 157,000 hectares of farms, data from the provincial government revealed.

In December 2012, the province was devastated by Typhoon Pablo with about six million coconut trees destroyed.

Aside from improving farm production by way of providing financial and technical support as well as shared service facilities, the profit that the fund will accrue will also be used in providing scholarships to farmers’ children among other benefits that they can get, she added.

On the P10 billion fund from the national government, the money will be provided to the PCA to help the coconut industry “for research, planting and re-planting, intercropping, fertilization as well as in providing (more) shared service facilities and coconut laboratories,” she added.

Of the fund, P1 billion will be set aside for coconut farmers to intercrop “with coffee and cacao you will

earn more coffee and cacao than from coconut,” she added, pointing out that under some studies intercropping these two crops will result in higher profitability.

She added that the proposed law will also address the long standing problems of coconut farmers -  “considered among the like poorest” – like lack of technology, lack of mechanization, lack of financial literacy and the difficulty in accessing credit.

She also pushed for the setting up of farm schools with each town or city having one that will help farmers optimize their productivity. She said tuition fees of those who will study in farm schools will be shouldered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.


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